Student Research Provides Value to Students and Professors

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

One benefit of attending a small liberal arts school is the research opportunities available to undergraduate students. At CC, the Department of Psychology is particularly invested in student research, as three professors — Kevin Holmes, Emily Chan, and Tomi-Ann Roberts — have recently published papers on the importance of undergraduate research. Additionally, three psychology professors — Jason Weaver,  Chan, and Roberts — took students to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Portland, Oregon, Feb. 7-9.

Professors  Roberts, Chan, and  Holmes all published articles in a special issue of Frontiers in Psychology titled “Engaging Undergraduates in Publishable Research: Best Practices.” Holmes’ and Roberts’ article, “Mentor as Sculptor, Makeover Artist, Coach, or CEO: Evaluating Contrasting Models for Mentoring Undergraduates’ Mesearch toward Publishable Research,” discusses how faculty can help students form research ideas that are beneficial to both the student and the professor. Chan’s article, “Student Research and Publication: Strategic Planning for Inclusion Using a Systems Mapping Approach,” is about how to make undergraduate research inclusive to first-generation students, those from historically underrepresented groups, and those from low-income backgrounds.

This student-focused approach is clear from the fact that many CC faculty, in the Psychology Department and elsewhere, publish with student co-authors and frequently take students to conferences. Quinn Husney ’18, the paraprofessional in the Department of Psychology this year, says her experience doing undergraduate research at CC helped her “conceptualize and study abstract concepts (like social trust, metaphorical thinking, or ambivalence) concretely,” and gain technical research skills. “As paraprof, I have the privilege of watching the transformation [from student to student researcher] in vivo, and it has both solidified and amplified my appreciation for research in undergrad,” she adds.

From the professor perspective, Chan says, “being able to be a part of the research team gives one insight into how knowledge is created, defined, critiqued, and shared. It changes one’s perspective from being a consumer of information to a co-generator in the world of ideas and action.”

In addition to mentored student research, first-year students in the Bridge Scholars program have the opportunity for paid research assistant positions in science labs through the First SCoRe program, a collaboration between CC’s Bridge Scholars program for first-generation students and Summer Collaborative Research program. Chan, who is also the director of the Bridge Scholars program, says this new program “provides an opportunity for interested students to be able to combine their interest in learning more about research along with the ability to do it as student employment.”